If you fly low over Burundi you see a network of paths, connecting clusters of houses spread over the hills. You notice the lack of cities and highways, but also this web of red dirt paths cutting through the lush green hills.
Drive a Land Cruiser down one of those paths and you notice how narrow they are as the roof rack starts to pick coffee off the trees, and your mirrors hit branches of banana and sorghum on both sides at the same time. The potholes and bumps are obvious, as is the questionable strength of certain bridges.
On a motorbike along this same path you see the kids run out and stand within centimeters of you. You realize how many people are around.
If you ride a mountain bike you hear so much more, and are more aware of the steep hills as you climb up them, and attempt to keep control on the downhill. The different crops and animals become apparent.
When you run there is a level of approachability between you and the people around you. You notice the mats of beans drying in front of mud huts, and faces of children carrying yellow jerry cans of water.
If you walk the path, kids walk along side you and try to have conversations in rudimentary English. You look up more to see the clouds developing over the hills, and the villages on the hills across the valley.
It is the exact same path – the place is the same. It’s merely your perspective that has brought about such a difference.
Sometimes we lose contentment because we are shocked by others not seeing something the same way we do. Maybe it’s someone at work who has a different idea to solve a problem, maybe it’s your spouse who views your habit as ‘annoying’ and you see it as ‘quirky. Your friend who thinks differently than you about the appropriate government response to COVID, about the role of the church in the public square etc. etc.
Oftentimes none of these perspectives are incorrect, but they are all incomplete. None of us ever fully understands any problem – certainly not any issue with a decent amount of complexity.
We can feel upset, annoyed, disturbed by someone else due to the view they have on a situation. But what if – it’s merely that one of you is running the trail, and the other is in a plane?
If you had the chance, the best way to fully understand would be to experience each of the different ways yourself.
Since that’s not usually possible, you get together and talk with someone who has experienced one of the others. You’ll not only see things you never noticed before, but hopefully develop an appreciation for their perspective.
That understanding may help you find contentment in the disagreements.
The next time someone’s response/opinion/thought on some issue really gets under your skin – pause for a moment.
Try – it can be so hard – but try to see what they see. Where are they coming from? What have they experienced, seen, learned that puts them in that place. Maybe you still feel they have a lack of understanding, but at least make an effort to see that.
If you can start to understand why and how they got to that place – you can more easily have conversations about how both your perspectives may have some merit – and you’ll find yourself benefiting from each other, instead of finding ways to disprove them.
Give us humility Lord,
to accept that we don’t see all sides of a story.
Give us acceptance for those we think are wrong.
Give us grace when others treat us poorly for our perspective.
Give us modesty when we share our thoughts.
Remove the stubborn stains of pride, vanity, conceit, and self-satisfaction.
Make us more like your Son.